Katie Taylor ready to ‘break down barriers’ ahead of pro debut
Boxer’s aim is not just to win anymore but to capture the public’s imagination
Katie Taylor: “It’s a new journey, an exciting journey and I am lucky to have a platform on Sky.” Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Katie Taylor is not for slowing down. She speaks like a conquistador ready to plant her standard on all five continents. This, she says, is not the end of an amateur career but the beginning of a bigger project.
This weekend her professional career ignites in London’s Wembley Arena. Two weeks later hers is a Manchester audience on the under card of IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, where 21,000 people will thrum through the hall.
She will fight again in 2017 possibly in Scandinavia and on March 18th hopes to fight on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight world champion of the WBA, WBC, IBF and IBO, in Madison Square Garden.
Bantamweight Michael Conlan will make his debut in the Garden the day before.
“It’s not about women’s boxing breaking through. It’s about the product breaking through,” says Eddie Hearn of Matchroom. “What that means is if you are entertaining, you are entertaining. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. It’s completely irrelevant.
“On Saturday I was in Las Vegas with Clarissa Shields [double Olympic gold medal-winning middleweight]. The only thing that was missing is they put her on at 5.30 in front of 10 per cent of the crowd. She was entertaining and that’s what I believe Katie Taylor will bring to the world of boxing.
“I’m the promoter. All I’m looking at is TV audience, live audience, who are going to love watching Katie Taylor develop.”
By any standards, the most decorated athlete in Irish sport is on a steep trajectory. Although her team are confident, even after the worst period of her amateur career in the first eight months of this year, they don’t lack certainty. They believe they could pair her with top-ranked professionals and she would win.
But that’s to escape the product placement of Taylor and the careful consideration of spreading her name. It hinges on her winning but Hearn’s Matchroom, promoter Brian Peters and her mother Bridget are not chasing an Irish audience. They are chasing a global one.
“It is very good for me,” says Katie. “It’s a new journey, an exciting journey and I am lucky to have a platform on Sky [which will show Saturday’s fight live]. I do believe that I will break down the barriers.”
It has been her prerogative to do that and in her amateur career she made that one of her habits. Her Polish opponent, 27-year-old Karina Kapinska, is no household name, nor well known from the amateur ranks.
She has had 24 fights, won seven lost 14 and drawn three, and is ranked at 35 in the featherweight division. What’s more, she is coming up in weight to meet lightweight Taylor.
Kapinska has won one of her last five fights and lost the last three. Back in 2009 in the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk, the Pole lost to Ireland’s Christina McMahon.
In the tried and trusted formula of ‘bringing them on’ in the professional ranks, Taylor is not expected to lose. But as Hearn says, it is no longer all about winning and going through to the next round or getting into a medal-winning position.
It is Taylor’s name, her reputation and her ability to not just perform but to entertain and capture imaginations that will see her prosper or sink. There is no Sports Council grant for a parachute. But then, she didn’t leave a lucrative Olympic boxing career to cash out.
“It is very different. You definitely have to put yourself out there,” she says. “It’s not something I’m as comfortable with. But as time goes I’ll find my feet. It has been exciting. I’m more excited about this than I have been throughout my amateur career. To be boxing on these big shows and have the chance of boxing on live TV is huge for women’s boxing.
“I came back from Rio and I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I knew that I needed some sort of a change and that’s when I got in touch with Ross [Enamait, her coach]. I went over to him for a few weeks. The more I was around him, the more I was going around the pro gyms and I got an appetite for it.”
The Joshua fight has wide public appeal in Britain. Like Taylor, he won gold in London 2012. Unlike Joshua, this will be her first visit to London for a bout since that historic 2012 evening in the Excel Arena. But she is shedding no tears for the past.
“It’s not a financial decision. If it was, I’d have stayed amateur and been more secure there with sponsors and that,” she says. “I needed a new change, a new goal.”
She did. Now she has got it.